Some players think that video games are created by tugging on a series of levers, like Homer Simpson at the Springfield nuclear plant. They believe that changing something inside a video game is as simple as pushing one of those levers into position and sitting back with a donut. If a developer wants to add co-op, simply push the “add co-op” button in Unreal Engine. Easy peasy.
Obviously, this is fantasy. The reality of making a game work in co-op is a nightmare. When one player is looking around your level, you know exactly what assets you can cull to save memory and what assets you can’t. Add two players or more and, whew, it gets a lot more complicated. There are also a bunch of other factors to consider, but this isn’t an article about co-op. No, this is much more interesting. This, my friends, is an article about doors.
Game developer Liz England once wrote a brilliant essay called The Door Problem , which outlines exactly why doors are such a pain in the ass for game developers to implement. Doors aren’t simply a passage into another room – adding a door creates a series of design problems. Can the AI also go through doors? Can doors be blocked, preventing the player from progressing? What happens if an AI gets stuck in a door? And on and on and on.
That’s why most games go for the ‘simple’ option and give us functional doors that do the bare minimum. They open and they close. Sometimes they just open. Sometimes they don’t even open and you get a loading screen instead. Sometimes you follow behind a soldier and the soldier opens the door for you. When they do become more than just doors, it’s usually in stealth games, where you’re able to peek through the keyhole or shove an optical camera under the gap at the bottom.
There’s one place where you don’t often see much hot door innovation outside of blowing them off their hinges – and even that is rare – and that’s in first-person shooter games. Apex Legends is the exception. Apex Legends has the Swiss Army knife of doors, the General Grievous of doors, the Spider-Man 3 of doors. They’re almost too much. Almost.
Doors in Apex Legends are integral to the gameplay and a huge thing to consider when trying to outsmart your enemies. They do, however, have a few rules, so let me lay them out to set the scene:
– From the outside, you can only push doors open. Never pull.
– If anything physically blocks the door, it can’t be opened any further than the object (yes, doors have multiple states between ‘open’ and ‘closed’).
– Certain weapons can push doors open.
– Some weapons, abilities, and equipment can break doors apart.
So that’s the playground – a rich set of rules that essentially creates a metagame within Apex Legends . Think about the consequences of the first rule for a second. It gives an advantage to those who are defending since an attacking player must force their way in if someone’s holed up in a building. Of course, you can always hassle them through windows, but that’s another conversation entirely.
Then we’ve got blocking. When you kill an enemy in Apex Legends , they drop a death box. If they happen to be standing near a door when they die, the box will block the door. I’ve seen early game battles that result in a pile of death boxes blocking a door completely, essentially trapping players in and forcing them to exit through another door, which is usually where a team, alerted by the noise, is waiting for them.
Certain character abilities, like Caustic’s gas traps, can also be used to block doors. Then there’s body blocking, where players push their character up against a door to prevent other players from pushing in. Stand near a door and the other team can’t open it from the outside, because they can only push. This is often a good way to pop a heal in the middle of a fight since players have to think fast to quickly flank around or remove the door from the equation entirely.
Destroying doors comes with a whole set of tactical considerations, too. If someone is body-blocking a door, the natural instinct is to immediately kick the door off its hinges. Only this takes two melee strikes. The first one signals your intent, preparing them for the second. The kicking animation also leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds, so any player worth their salt will be ready for you as soon as the door shatters into pieces.
A better option is often to throw a grenade, which will also blow the door up. Time a second grenade for just as the door explodes and you’ve got a perfect breach. Or, if you have a Rampart on your team, get her to rip through the door and the person on the other side with her minigun. A charged-up Rampage LMG will have the same effect, though it’s not quite as deadly.
Some weapons – most snipers, the 30-30 repeater, and the Wingman, to name a few – also allow you to open doors, rather than destroy them, from a distance, as long as you shoot the handle. This tactic is handy for when people are holed up, but they aren’t blocking the doors. It’s also a good way to force the enemy team to close the door, drawing them in for a grenade or a Rampart barrage.
Attacking teams can also use body-blocking doors to their advantage by filling a building with grenades and blocking the exits. It’s hard to pull off, but super satisfying when it works.
Then there’s pre-aiming. Since the doors have glass panels, you can push up against them and peek at the other side. Pre-aim an enemy and push through the door with your finger on the trigger.
Outside of all these combat scenarios, the doors of Apex Legends also act as climbing platforms. Open a door up from the inside, climb on top of it, climb again – now you’re on the roof. Well done.
This is a big part of what makes Apex Legends my battle royale game of choice. It’s never just about aiming and shooting – even outside of team composition, character abilities, loadout, and what map you’re playing, there are dozens of tactical considerations you have to make on the fly, all of it backed up by the slickest movement in any FPS. The fact I just wrote a thousand words about doors should tell you all you need to know.
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GLHF.
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